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Starting Cattle On The Right Path

Starting Cattle On The Right Path

Reducing stress in cattle after transport

As the next group of cattle makes its way off the trailer, what you do in the next hours and days will have a tremendous impact on how well those calves perform while in your facilities. Getting them started on the right nutrition program will have a significant impact on how well they perform, which directly impacts your profitability.

During the receiving period cattle undergo a change in diet, environment, are hauled, have feed and water withheld, commingled, and they might also be vaccinated, implanted, and castrated, among other things. All of this causes a disturbance in the rumen. The ultimate results of these stressors are:

  • Severely disrupted rumen bacterial balance
  • Reduced rumen bacterial populations to only 10-25% of normal
  • Diminished rumen protozoal numbers to near zero
  • Decreased rumen fermentative ability by 85-90%

Cattle can also suffer significant weight loss, losing more than half a percent of body weight for every 100 miles of transport. Calves that lose more than seven percent of body weight are at a high stress level and at higher disease risk, which can also have a negative effect on rumen function.

To reduce stress, avoid processing cattle immediately upon arrival. A good rule of thumb is to let calves rest one hour for each hour of time they spent on the truck before they are run through a chute again for processing. Make sure pens are clean and well-bedded. Have an ample supply of fresh water available and located where it can be easily found. Make long-stem grass hay and palatable feed readily available. Give calves about a foot of bunk space per head.

Getting rumen function moving in the right direction can start at processing by drenching calves with an immune health support product. Use a product designed to naturally balance rumen microbiota and optimize the rumen environment, like Diamond V’s LiquiCare® RTU. Healthy rumen function translates into better performing cattle.

New arrivals will eat poorly for the first few days until they become accustomed to their new surroundings, their new pen mates, and a new ration. Abrupt changes in feed such as introducing too much grain too quickly or putting cattle out into lush pastures can disrupt rumen function. Feed good quality grass and a transition starter ration with products that stimulate rumen function and support active immunity. Including a product in the ration will help feed the microbes in the rumen and restore the microbial population.

All incoming cattle will experience stress of some kind. This stress has a negative effect on the microbial population in the rumen, as well as depresses rumen function. Steps that can be taken to lessen stress in newly received cattle, as well as to help them recuperate, will pay dividends in terms of improved health and performance. By increasing the palatability of the feed, stimulating the microbial population in the rumen through a drench provided at processing, and increasing feedstuff digestibility, a smoother transition can be made to get cattle started on the right track.